Frederick to start at center for Badgers
MADISON Wisconsin offensive line coach Bob Bostad didn’t hesitate to make a change at the first sign of trouble Saturday at Illinois.
One day later, Bostad again acted decisively.
Sophomore Travis Frederick is set to start at center Saturday when No. 15 UW (9-2, 5-2) hosts No. 20 Penn State (9-2, 6-1) in a game to determine the champion of the Big Ten Leaders Division.
Frederick, a former Walworth Big Foot athlete, gets the nod over sophomore Ryan Groy, who started at Illinois in place of injured starter Peter Konz (ankle) but was replaced in the third quarter after botched snaps on consecutive plays. Groy is to start this week at left guard.
“I just think the game got a little big for Ryan,” Bostad said Sunday before practice. “I stand by the (original) decision that we made because we had the vast majority of the reps built in for Ryan at center.”
Frederick moved from left guard to center with 1:22 left in the third quarter against the Illini and played well. Groy handled the move back to guard seamlessly.
UW scored touchdowns on drives of 44 and 39 yards after the switch. UW then ran off the final 7:30 with a 12-play, 65-yard drive.
“I don’t think the production went up because we made the switch, which I think a lot of people want to say that,” Bostad said. “I thought as a unit we started a little slow.
“To me, I thought, the issue was the speed of the game. We were a little bit behind. It wasn’t anything that we hadn’t seen. They just came at us at a different speed.
“We knew it was going to be a four-quarter, knockdown, drag-out game inside.”
Frederick, who redshirted last season, opened the 2009 season as UW’s starting center. He started the first two games before suffering an ankle injury that limited him to just five games that season. Frederick finished with four starts, two at center and two at left guard.
According to Bostad, Groy received about 80 percent of the practice snaps at center last week and Frederick got the remaining 20 percent.
“He is a low-rep guy,” Bostad said of Frederick. “He doesn’t need a lot of work. That is where you are fortunate. He can just drop in.
“And if you play guard and you can get the snapping aspect and the timing of the calls, you are really involved with what is going on at center. Those inside guys have a lot of carryover.
“He has played there before, and I thought he did a good job.”
Groy’s play was solid until UW’s second series of the third quarter.
He didn’t snap the ball on time on third and 7 from the UW 42, which resulted in a 5-yard penalty. On the next play, he sailed the shotgun snap over the head of quarterback Russell Wilson, who hustled back to beat defensive end Michael Buchanan to the ball at the UW 23.
“Those are pretty critical errors,” offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said.
According to Bostad, Groy didn’t botch any snaps during the week in practice. But Bostad did notice something late in the week.
“I noticed on Thursday the ball was taking off a little fast,” Bostad said, referring to Groy’s shotgun snaps. “I’ve been around long enough that I kind of got my antenna up.
“And that’s why immediately after that happened in the game we made the change. I wasn’t going to deal with it.”
Groy, 6-foot-5 and 320, is athletic enough to play either guard spot or center. Frederick, 6-4 and 330, is majoring in computer engineering and probably the smartest of the linemen.
“He truly is a rocket scientist,” Chryst said. “He is a bright, bright kid.”
Frederick’s quick mind was on display on his second play at center.
Tailback Montee Ball took a handoff from Wilson and headed toward the right-guard gap. Frederick and right guard Kevin Zeitler were working a double-team block on a defensive tackle, but Frederick noticed linebacker Houston Bates blitzing through the vacated center gap.
Frederick came off the double-team to slow Bates, who otherwise would have had a clear shot to tackle Ball for a loss. Instead, Ball gained 9 yards to set up a third-and-1. He ripped off a 34-yard run to the 1 on the next play, and Wilson scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run on the next play.
“Travis was ready without a doubt,” Zeitler said after the game. “Travis has played center before. Travis is probably the smartest out of all the O-linemen, so if anyone can handle it, he can.”